Black Winter Truffles

Displaying our truffles with Mirabelle the mutt and Jean Marc

We set out in Southern France to experience a  hunt for winter truffles with Johan, and his friend, Jean Marc, who keeps two truffle hunting dogs and trains them specifically for this purpose. I had been looking forward to it, but it turned out to be the highlight of our trip for several reasons. First of all , Johan is very passionate about farming and sustainability, so he is like us! Secondly, truffles are totally fascinating, and so is hunting for them. Third, he served us an array of truffle appetizers and champagne after the hunt!

We learned a great deal about these little fungi, which really are not mushrooms at all. Who knew?

What we learned:

The most revered and expensive truffle in the world is the black winter truffle from France. The white summer truffle is more ubiquitous and often used more in truffle oils found here.

Truffles are darn near impossible to farm because they require strict conditions, plenty of sunlight, consistent watering, winter temperatures above 26 degrees and warm summers with low humidity and loamy soil that drains well. They are not native to many areas, so you won’t find them growing naturally in the US. But these condition all come together perfectly in certain areas of Provence, especially in vineyards.

Truffles rely on oak trees and hazelnut trees to grow, so you will only find them growing below these types of trees, where their spores cling to the root and eventually may produce a truffle if conditions are perfect.

To find a tree that may have truffles growing underneath, look for a circle around the base of the tree where zero grass is growing. If there is grass there will not be a truffle, as they emit an oil or substance that kills that grass below the tree.

They take 7 years to mature.

You can order oak trees with truffle spores on the roots, which is what they did on their farm. However, truffles were already growing naturally for over 100 years on his family farm under the oaks, so they knew conditions were right for farming. Truffles only like direct sunlight.

The olive groves on the farm

Truffles  are only fresh and ready to eat for a few days up to two weeks and lose their fragrance and water weight very day, so shipping them means each day they are out of the ground they are losing flavor and fragrance. A frozen truffle bears little resemblance to a fresh one.

Johan said that 90% of black winter truffle products found in the United States are fake. You can know for sure if what you have is real by reading the ingredient list:  if it includes the term melanospora, it is actual real black truffle. If the label  says”flavor”, it is using chemicals to fool you, and you are paying triple price for it.

The hunt:

Jean Marc’s dogs sniffed a box of tasty treats and immediately knew it was time to begin sniffing around the farm for truffles.  We took them to trees that had no grass , and Mirabelle would identify if there is truffle, sit and then the other dog would begin to feverishly dig. She is trained to dig it up and take it gently in her mouth, but Jean Marc was careful to watch  her to prevent her from destroying it with her claws.

carefully removing a truffle

All you need to do is sniff the dirt to know a truffle has been there because the aroma is so pungent. The truffle should be hard, not spongy.

 

They are sold for about 1 euro per gram. We discovered about 115 grams about 45 minutes!

weighing the truffles

You haven’t lived until you have eaten a fresh black truffle shaved thinly and eaten simply on a slice of bread with cheese or butter. The explosion of flavor and fragrance is unlike anything I have ever tasted.

Here at the farm, they use older truffles to make their truffle salt and truffle oil. The fragrance is so strong that it taints everything in their refrigerator and freezer. Wow!

The best thing I ate in France, right here:

fresh French cheese with shaved black truffle, truffle oil, and truffle salt

truffle ice cream with truffle honey

He  paired all of our tastings with champagne  and it was all included in the tour.

bread topped with fresh butter and shaved black truffle

Please send me a personal email or Facebook message if you are planning a trip to Frnace and would like a tour with Johan. It was my favorite part of our trip and everything is made right here on the farm. You can even ADOPT  A TRUFFLE TREE AND BE SHIPPED FRESH TRUFFLES! Pretty amazing.

And now Larsen and I want to plant a few up on the farm in Virginia as an experiment. What do you think? Should we try it?

 

In love and light,

Lydia

 

Green Bean Tomato Salad

Garden Summer 2015

 

The garden has been exploding with tiny wild cherry tomatoes and jade green beans this year. If I sit quietly, I can see so much activity going on:tiny baby anoles climbing the hop vines, wasps buzzing about the bolting basil, honeybees on the squash flowers, earthworms in the soil.   The single most important thing we have learned gardening each year is to create an environment that attracts beneficial insects like wasps and ladybugs that will ward off pests. So we keep flowers and flowering herbs like salvia, dill, mint, thyme, cilantro and basil mixed in with the vegetable plants to attract the beneficial insects . This year, so far, we have had no aphids or caterpillars. Additionally, we use a copper powder once every two weeks to ward off fungus and blight due to wet conditions.

Now I am not a huge green bean fan, but these beans are different! They are called “jade beans” and seem to just keep on growing more beans for months on end.

We tend to eat really simply in the summer to let the fresh ingredients shine , and this recipe was born from a surplus of beans and tomatoes one night.

If you get your hands on some fresh green beans, then give this one  a try. It will be on the table in 20 minutes!

Happy Summertime.

 

Green Bean Tomato Salad

Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 3 minutes
Total time 13 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Salad, Side Dish

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh green beans
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Bulgarian feta
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions

Step 1
Wash green beans and then bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the beans 2-3 minutes in the hot water and then dunk into a bowl filled with ice cold water.
Step 2
Combine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and mustard in a bowl and whisk until combined.
Step 3
Combine green beans, fresh tomatoes, and feta in a salad bowl and toss with prepared dressing.

 

 

 

 

Clementine Roasted Free-Range Chicken

I am slightly obsessed with this cookbook, Jerusalem. Some of the pages are stained from use with various sauces and splatters, a sign of a well-used cookbook . In it I just happened to notice one detail that has literally changed the way I cook free range chicken.

by Yottam Ottolenghi

by Yottam Ottolenghi

 

For the first time in January I cooked a true free range bird we raised here at home on pasture. These birds are large, long-legged, lean and just a little different than the chickens you can buy at the grocery store. Free range birds have more dark meat, making them more flavorful. The legs on our birds are about twice the length of a grocery store bird, but the breasts are smaller.  Contrast that to a typical bird sold in American grocery stores, raised in a warehouse that is pumped with antibiotics, growth hormones, and  grain, so that they grow super fast with zero exercise. This results in near-non-existent leg muscles, more fat, and large breasts. They usually cannot hold heir own weight up on their weak little legs. It’s a sad situation…and a good reason to avoid brands like Tyson and Purdue and support your local farmers. I personally love Savannah River Farms and know they raise birds, but I think more options are showing up at the Forsyth Farmers market every year, too.

I thought I could cook our free range chicken just like any old chicken and decided to roast it in the oven with olive oil, fresh herbs,  root vegetables and salt and pepper. No problem, right?

Well, the chicken came out dry on the outside, tough, and partially raw on the inside.

What did I do wrong?

According to Yottam Ottolenghi, cooking the chicken whole was my first mistake. In his cookbook, he cuts up the chicken and lets it roast in in some sort of delicious marinade and makes a grain side dish cooked in the juices.

I decided try that, cut up the chicken (after watching this Youtube video on how to cut up a whole chicken because I have never actually done that before) and out came this incredibly flavorful, tender, chicken.

Another perk is the roasting takes 35- 45 minutes, so you can make this recipe any night of the week if you prep the marinade the day before.

We have 27 new chicks as of March 9th, a mix of different breeds for egg-laying and meat,and I have been enjoying watching them go from little puffballs to doubling in size in about a week.

 

Meet Mr. Popper, based on the book Mr. Popper’s penguins. Can you tell why!?

 

Mr. Popper

Mr. Popper

 

 

Clementine Roasted Free Range Chicken

Serves 3
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Serve Hot
From book Jerusalem
Try this Clementine Roasted Chicken for an easy and flavorful weeknight meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 free range chicken (quartered, skin on)
  • 3 clementines (sliced thinly short-wise)
  • 1 onion chopped into thin rings or slices
  • 3 teaspoons fennel seeds (crushed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 pink grapefruit, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grain mustard
  • 2 cups basmati rice (cooked)

Directions

Step 1
Combine the grapefruit and lemon juice, olive oil, wine , mustard and fennel in a large bowl and mix with a whisk.
Step 2
Place the chicken in a deep roasting pan and coat the chicken with the marinade. Pour all of the marinade over the chicken.
Step 3
Place the onions around the chicken and the sliced clementines on top of the chicken and in the pan.
Step 4
Cover the pan tightly and let it sit in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight to marinate the chicken.
Step 5
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper .
Step 6
Roast at 475 degrees uncovered for 35-45 minutes. It will get pretty dark and have crispy skin.
Step 7
Serve with basmati rice . This is delicious with sliced cucumbers and yogurt and fresh tomatoes on the side.

In love and light,

Lydia

 

Sweet Sweet Summertime

I have to say I am thrilled to see my blog is still in existence. I had serious doubts.

I know I dropped off the face of the Earth for 5 months a while . I am not going to apologize anymore because sh* happens. You  forgive me, right?

Why don’t I start when I left off, sometime in March before I started studying for another dreadful exam and had no life for 3 months?

We brought home a package of bees and embarked on a beekeeping adventure with the bee boxes I had bought Larsen for Christmas.   Their population has exploded so much that we have added a 4th box to their hive, which will be slowly filled with honey over the next several months. I have noticed folks are quite curious about them.  Most commonly, people ask how we will actually extract the honey. That, my friends, is done with what is called an extractor, which we will be purchasing shortly. Basically,  after you uncap the wax off of the frame filled with delicious honey (which is covered in wax to keep the honey in), the extractor will spin  the frame to remove the honey. You then filter the honey and jar it. You can actually use every part of the hive in some way, including wax, propolos, honey and royal jelly. Pretty neat!

bees

The garden has been in full swing since April , but sadly the tomatoes have not fared well again due to the rain and bugs and disease. Many of them have black bottoms. I am so disappointed in our tomatoes this year. However as you can see from the photo below, the marigolds, jade green beans , yellow squash and carrots have done amazingly well!

veggies summer 2014

 

On the cooking front,  grilling out fish and veggies has been our summer meal of choice . I thought I would share a recipe I developed with grass fed beef and fresh herbs and cucumbers from the garden. See below for the recipe! It is super fast, fresh, healthy and the perfect meal to cap off a dreadfully hot day because no oven is required.

I am happily back to running, coaching and working out hard, incorporating light weight training at home and power yoga into my week too. It’s great to be back with the crew! Rock N’ Roll Marathon is right around the corner in November, then I will be training for the Charleston Marathon (if I can be convinced to run another full marathon, cough cough), then Cooper River Bridge Run. We have a lot of travel planned for the first half of next year, so  I just hope I can fit everything I want to do in. But travel is another post in itself!

For cross-training, here are 2 of my favorite online workouts so far for the experienced yogini or exerciser, both intermediate/advanced levels. (Please do not try these workouts if you are not familiar with proper weight training form or yoga.) These will kick your butt. Be forewarned. But nothing in life is worth having if you didn’t sweat a little for it, right?

YOGA:

ALI KAMENOVA INTERVAL POWER YOGA-40 MIN

WEIGHT TRAINING(need 5 or 10  pound dumbells):

GYM RA ADVANCED DUMBELL/CARDIO WORKOUT

We are officially boaters now, which was completely unplanned thanks to my wonderful grandfather.  I cannot wait to take friends out on  the boat,  fish, and explore the rivers. We had to drive all the way to Louisiana to get the boat from Pa and celebrate his 87 th birthday with the family for a short but sweet long weekend in Cajun-country.  Much to my  vegetarian friends’ dismay(sorry I am really not sorry) I ate a huge fried oyster po’boy, Zapp’s potato chips, cracklins(which is double fried pork fat dusted with a delicious seasoning), boudin, homemade crawfish etoufee, duck, turtle soup, and coconut pie in  matter of 48 hours. Then we drove home for 16 hours listening to a book on tape . I didn’t want to look at meat for 2 days after that.  Totally Worth It.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pa fishing

Pa and all the ladies in the family!

Pa and all the ladies in the family!

Life is good. Summertime is sweet.

And I missed you guys!

With Love,

Lydia

Mediterranean Burgers with Cucumber Salad

Serves 6-8
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
Allergy Milk
Meal type Main Dish, Salad
Occasion Barbecue
This summertime deconstructed burger is a perfectly refreshing meal topped with a light cucumber salad.

Ingredients

  • 2lb grass fed beef
  • 1/2 cup grated onion and juices
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 cucumbers (peeled and cubed)
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • .5 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 6-8 wedges Naan bread or pita bread
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons pepper

Note

You can buy Naan bread at Whole Foods or make your own! Grass fed beef can be found at your local farmer's markets and specialty grocers.

Directions

Step 1
Combine the grass fed beef, grated onion, cumin and coriander in a large bowl. Add 1 t salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper.
Step 2
Shape beef into patties and grill over medium-high heat until just cooked through and juices run clear. Remember that grass fed beef cooks significantly faster than store-bought beef. Cover with foil and set aside once they are cooked.
Step 3
Combine the yogurt, mayo, olive oil, fresh herbs and cucbmbers in a medium bowl and chill for 20-30 minute.
Step 4
Serve the burgers on top of warm Naan bread topped with a huge helping of cucumber salad.

 

 

 

 

Lately

 

There have been so many moments in the 4.5 month span since I last wrote on this blog when I wanted to just write, to come here and share a recipe I made or a restaurant I visited….but somehow those words never made it to this space.

I suppose it’s a combination of starting a new job and becoming accustomed to studying 10-15 hours a week at home that left me with little time to myself, let alone my blog.

 

The truth is that I have done an awful lot of cooking, some studying,  nearly zero photography, but plenty of living the last few months.

I ran a marathon.

marathon 2

I went to Atlanta for a long weekend and had an incredible meal at Local Three Kitchen and Bar, spent time with family, and ate this at Highland Bakery :

 

Highland Bakery's French Toast

 

I baked this luxurious cake for Christmas Day and lazed around opening way too many presents with my Family feeling very blessed to be there with the man I love.

Gingerbread Cake with Pistachio Topping

 

gingerbread cake

 

We had no less than 4 oyster roasts in a month-long span. I’m not complaining!

 

Larsen cooking oysters

Roasting oysters to perfection and shucking them with friends around a table with a spotlight shining and a fire roaring.

 

Though I had little time for Holiday baking, I carved out a few hours to make homemade marshmallows and dark chocolate almond butter cups.

 

marshmallow creme

This recipe from Smitten Kitchen’s blog made me change my mind about marshmallows. I altered Deb’s recipe slightly with the addition of ground ginger and cinnamon to make it a gingerbread flavor.

 

I have been cooking like a mad woman from this cookbook, Jerusalem, and I MUST share this hummus recipe because it is quite honestly the silkiest, smoothest, most-authentic hummus I have ever made. It requires soaking chickpeas overnight.Other than that, it is a breeze and you will never quite like Sabra hummus again, but you also will never need to buy it again because homemade hummus is twice as cheap. (Scroll down for the recipe!)

jerusalem cookbook

 

Lastly, we have been planning our upcoming trip to Germany/Switzerland/Austria and I am so READY to get out of this country for a couple of weeks of exploration, R&R, skiing in the Alps and stuffing my face with as much schnitzel, smoked salmon, hearty bread, and beer my stomach can handle!

 

FROHES NEUES JAHR! (HAPPY NEW YEAR)

Lydia

 

Silky Smooth Hummus

Serves 8
Prep time 12 hours
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 12 hours, 30 minutes
Dietary Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Side Dish, Snack
Misc Pre-preparable
Region Moroccan
From book Jerusalem
This silky-smooth, authentic hummus will make you feel like you are dining in a cafe in Jerusalem.

Ingredients

  • 1.25 cups dried chickpeas
  • salt to taste
  • pepper
  • 6.5 tablespoons ice-cold water
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-2 roasted orange or red peppers (jarred is fine)

Note

You can get creative with this and add chopped fresh herbs on top, a drizzle of olive oil, or toasted pine nuts. You could also leave out the roasted pepper completely. The possibilities are endless!

Directions

Step 1
Soak the dried chickpeas in a bowl of water overnight.
Step 2
The next day, drain the chickpeas and simmer on the stove with baking soda for 30-40 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Try to scoop out and skim off as many skins and foam as you can from the surface.
Step 3
Once the chickpeas are cooked, drain them, and throw them into your food processor with the crushed garlic, roasted peppers, water, and tahini and whirl, whirl, whirl until you have a silky-smooth consistency. Add salt to taste and combine again.Serve immediately with warm pita bread. (you can refrigerate it, but let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before eating for the best consistency!)

 

 

 

Summer’s End Zucchini Corn Soup

It simply cannot be, summer nearly over. I am slightly sad, yet  slightly anxious for the fall foods to start appearing in the markets. I will surely miss soups like this: light, creamy, healthy, and fresh.

This is summer in a bowl.

I can’t remember a soup I have enjoyed so much. I can feel my body thanking me for all the superfoods every time I eat it.

Enjoy summer while you can.

This soup may take little while in the kitchen but it is plenty to eat on all week, hot or cold or room temperature.!

 

Zucchini-Corn Soup

Between the new job and raising a little kitten, it is meals like this I keep returning to, so I can cook less and enjoy time more.

Uni

Uni

 

 

Zucchini Corn Soup

Serves 10
Prep time 25 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Meal type Soup
Misc Pre-preparable
Region Thai
This creamy Thai Zucchini Corn Soup is light, healthy, and refreshing any time of year!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 ears fresh corn (kernels sliced off the cobs)
  • 1 quarter-sized piece of ginger (grated)
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice plus half a lime
  • 6 cups water
  • 10-12 basil leaves
  • 2 large scallions
  • 4 cobs of corn (kernels chopped off the cob)
  • 1.5 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5lb zucchini
  • 3/4 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro

Directions

Step 1
In a large saucepan, combine 2 T of lime juice,a half a lime, water,and ginger. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 2
Toss in the basil, turn off the burner. and let it steep for 10 additional minutes. Menawhile toss the chopped scallions into a cold bowl of water and stir around to remove all dirt. Drain and set the scallion pieces aside.
Step 3
Strain the warm stock through a sieve and set aside the aromatics, keeping the liquid broth for the soup.
Step 4
In a wide soup pot melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped scallions to the oil and cook until they are wilting, around 5 minutes. Add the chopped zucchini, 2/3 of the fresh corn kernels,1 tsp salt, and enough of the liquid stock to cover the vegetables.
Step 5
Bring the soup to a light boil and lower the temperature to a simmer. Let simmer 15 minutes.
Step 6
Let the soup come to room temperature(around 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to release steam). (This will preserve bright green color of cilantro one you add it in.) Add the cilantro leaves and puree the soup either using an immersion blender or your food processor. Stir in coconut milk and 2 Tablespoons lime juice. Serve warm with a few pieces of fresh corn kernels on top.

Change

Lots o’ changes going on over here! #1 I took an offer for a new job,  a job where I actually have to wear something other than running clothes. Where I work 8:30 to 5. Yeah….let me just take that in a second. Whoah.  I am excited, mostly because I am a huge nerd and like to learn, and my life is going to be one big learning mountain the next few years as I enter a whole new world. #2 We took in a new family member. Scroll down for pics! #3 Whole Foods Savannah opened.  I repeat. A WHOLE FOODS now exists in Savannah. I like to call it my second home. I visited 3 times the first two days. I have a whole post planned on budget-conscious finds at Whole Foods, for those naysayers who call it “Whole Paycheck”. pshhh. #4. Great Harvest Bakery Savannah opened! Please, go buy a loaf of Dakota bread. It will be the best and most expensive loaf of bread you ever buy. But you will savor each wholesome, seedy, soft slice. mmmmm. #5 The air conditioner at our home has gone out twice. We are receiving a new unit in “3 to 5 business days”, which I prefer to call “torture ” days….

But let’s get down to the just of this post, which is that I am in desperate need of some jalapeno recipes. What do you do with 20 + jalapenos?

I’m glad you/I asked. I began to research the best jalapeno recipes on the web.

You could make these pickled jalapenos. I think these would be delicious on tacos, sandwiches, casseroles, and even in omelets. Pickled jalapenos are not nearly as spicy as fresh ones. I cannot really handle fresh jalapenos. Heck I can’t even cut them without crying from the spicy fumes. You could also make  stuffed grilled jalapenos and top them with copious amounts of cheese. At least, that’s what my cousins in Texas do. Or you could take the DePue route and wrap them in bacon because everything is better wrapped in bacon.

Secondly, and more waistline-consciously(yes I just made that word up), you could make my Jalapeno Corn Griddle Cakes pictured below. Top these with black beans and salsa , plain  sour cream (pictured below), underneath a crispy chicken breast with a cream sauce, underneath sliced avocado and fresh  lime juice, or served with a big side salad for a complete meal.

These griddle cakes are so versatile! Give them a try before summer slips away. I’m already hoarding the fresh corn before it disappears.

 

jalapeno griddle cakes

 

In other news, this happened 2  weeks ago, our new family member. No words.

kitty at 2.5 weeks

Uni at 2 weeks old

3 weeks old

3 weeks old

4 weeks old and I can walk, guys!

4 weeks old and I can walk, guys!

 

What can I say? I am a sucker for baby animals . We found her on the highway, and I have been snapping away photos with my iphone and bottle-feeding her ever since. Uni is  pretty fat and happy right now and learning to play!

In Love and Health,

Lydia

Corn Jalapeno Griddle Cakes

Serves 6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 4 minutes
Total time 14 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Appetizer, Lunch, Main Dish, Side Dish
Misc Freezable, Serve Hot
Whip up some fast and healthy jalapeno griddle cakes for a summertime meal.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh corn, chopped off the cob (about 4 ears)
  • 1 jalapeno (finely chopped)
  • 2/3 cups vidalia onion (finely chopped)
  • 4 eggs (large)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for cooking
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Note

Definitely wear gloves to chop the jalapeno!

Directions

Step 1
Pulse only 1 cup of the corn kernels in the food processor until roughly chopped. Dump into a large bowl with the other whole kernels, jalapeno, onion, cheddar, eggs, cilantro, and olive oil. Stir to combine.
Step 2
In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Stir carefully into the wet ingredients until just combined.
Step 3
Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle to medium-high heat, and pour in enough olive oil to just cover the bottom. Scoop batter 1/4 c at a time onto griddle. It will be a very thick batter. Cook 2 minutes on 1 side, then flip and cook 2 minutes on the other side.
Step 4
Serve hot with sour cream on top!

Farmer’s Market Friday: Simple Squash Soup

Vegetable gardens make me happy. I love getting my hands into the dirt and face close to the ground to investigate what is going on down there. If I look closely and sit very quietly next to a plant for a few minutes, I can see the garden  teeming with life,: wasps, bees, worms, birds, and every once in a while an unwelcome caterpillar. It’ s amazing to me that they all work in such harmony.

our garden

So far our organic and companion planting methods have worked well and the all of the plants except the squash seem happy. I have managed to harvest a few squash, but discovered we have squash vine borers. I awoke this morning after so much rain to see the squash looks even worse than the picture below and most of our plants had to be pulled up. You can see the base of the vine is where the larvae breaks in and destroys it, causing the leaves and stems to wilt and die. . What a pain! Oh, well. Check out some of  the other plants sprouting and flowering!

yellow squash

lettuce

eggplant

 

cucumber

marigolds

 

cherry tomato

 

 

So how do you grow an organic garden without being  invaded by pests?

Pests are inevitable. Prevention is key. Now that we know we will have squash vinve borer problems, we will have to pay closer attention  to prevent the larvae from being hatched!

 1) Companion planting-Try planting beans with cucumbers, basil with tomatoes, chives with peas, peppers  near eggplant, etc. You can read a great article on companion planting from Mother Earth News  HERE.

2) Marigolds everywhere! I plant 2 or 3 different marigold varieties.

3) Keep birds busy with a birdfeeder nearby. Otherwise they may try to eat all of your pretty tomatoes.

4) Attract bees and beneficial insects with other beneficial plants-I planted bee balm and salvia throughout the garden to attract beneficial insects.

5) Prevent squash borers with row covers. Cover the young plants with a very light row cover until they begin to flower. Then uncover them so they can be pollinated. This will prevent moths from laying eggs on the plants. This is a lesson learned for us this year.

5) Keep a garden journal and map out what you planted, how many plants, and where they are situated in the garden. Track how much produce you are getting, how often you fertilize and water, etc. This way you can look back and see what you did right or wrong if pests invade!

I transformed the 5 or 6 squash we harvested into a delicious soup. My mom made me an incredible squash soup last year around this time and I asked her for the recipe. I am not sure where this recipe came from, but it is my get -rid of -copious-amounts-of-squash-recipe.

Simple, refreshing and fast, this soup is the epitome of an easy, summer meal.

I don’t think you can screw up this soup. You can add more cream or any kind of fresh herb to your liking. Just make sure to use yellow summer squash.

In Love and Health,

Lydia

Summer Squash Soup

Serves 6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Meal type Soup
This creamy summer squash soup is a cinch to make with only a few ingredients and 10 minutes of your time!

Ingredients

  • 1 vidalia onion (chopped)
  • 2-3lb yellow squash (sliced thinly)
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3 tablespoons chives
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Step 1
Chop vidalia onion. Saute in butter for 5-8 minutes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Meanwhile boil chicken stock. Drop in the chopped squash into the stock and cook 4-5 minutes.
Step 2
Puree the squash, chicken stock, and onion in a food processor until smooth. Add back to the soup pot, and stir in the half and half. Serve warm garnished with chives.

 

Sweet Potato Roasted Pepper Soup

You can tell a great deal about a person by what lies in the depths of their refrigerator.You know you do it, snoop through someone’s refrigerator while visiting.

The “empty-fridge person”? That just blows my mind. How do manage to eat out 3 meals per day? And never snack?

Then there is the beer-only fridge…I won’t name any names since some of my former roommates may or may not read my blog.

The there is my mother-in -law’s fridge, that perfect fridge. You know….the one that is bright white and all the tupperwares match and are perfectly stacked by size. The vegetables are in the crisper where they are supposed to be the foods are labeled and dated. The sauces look nice and tidy in the fridge door, nary a drip or drop anywhere to be seen around the caps.

And then.

You have my fridge.

About once I week I find myself cursing as I reach into the back trying to find that darned piece of ginger wrapped in foil and my hand hits something sticky. The soy sauce spilled back there somewhere. My dog is sticking his face in there trying to lick it up, amidst the small stacks of leftovers haphazardly packaged in foil and plastic wrap. You can see  an  open-air bowl of noodles my husband placed on the top shelf with no cover on it. Random piles of vegetables are placed haphazardly on every space available. Even though I clean it out every 2 weeks, it looks as if it hasn’t been organized in months.

I’m just that messy apparently.

I dislike wasting good food. Sometimes it’s a struggle to use up all the fresh veggies we have in the fridge before they go bad, so I survey the fridge as the end  of the week nears and use past-due foods  in the best way I know how: a soup! Whatever doesn’t make it into the soup goes to chickens as long as it is not moldy.

I made this soup with leftover sweet potatoes and a bag of peppers that was about to bite the dust.  This has to be one of the easiest soup recipes I have made to date.

sweet potato red pepper soup

Roast the veggies, dump in the pot, puree.

Done.

A clean recipe that will get you into swimsuit-ready shape.

Top with pepitas (pumpkin seeds), feta, or sliced avocado and a side of crusty bread .

 

In other news, the Barred Rock ladies are officially hitting puberty.

 

Barred Rock Chicks in November

Barred Rock Chicks November 2012

 

grown barred rock hen

Barred Rock Hen April 2013

Our first tiny brown egg appeared in the coop yesterday after 4.5 months of waiting. It’s entirely too cute to eat. Don’t you agree?

The first  2 tiny brown eggs.

The first 2 tiny brown eggs.

 

 

 

Roasted Sweet Potato Red Pepper Soup

Serves 6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 55 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Appetizer, Main Dish
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
This low calorie and flavorful roasted sweet potato red pepper soup is the perfect fast weeknight meal.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups red bellpepper (chopped)
  • 2.5 cups peeled sweet potato (cubed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 teaspoon chinese 5 spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 5 cups no salt added chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/8 t salt and toss well. Place mixture on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
Step 2
In a soup pot or large saucepan, combine the roasted veggies,chicken broth and another 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Place half of the mixture in a blender. Cover blender with a towel and puree. Repeat with remaining veggies in the pot until mixture is smooth. Top with rosemary, feta cheese or pumpkin seeds. Serve,

 

 

 

A Sunny St. Pat’s

st. pat's collageSt. Patrick’s Day does not pass quietly by in Savannah. Nor in my life.  I don’t remember a year that I have not been downtown for the Parade. Perhaps in college I missed a few, but for the most part of my tween and teenage life  I distinctly remember getting up early, painting my nails and toenails green, braiding my hair in pigtails, putting entirely too much glitter on my face, wearing a trendy outfit that I would probably regret wearing now, and scouting out cute boys in the crowd with my best friend, Leia.

We caught the CAT bus from the mall, munched on green bagels, and made our way through the crowds to a few house parties with delicious breakfast foods before plopping down to watch the parade and eat again afterwards.  St. Patrick’s Day has always been more focused on food for me.  And celebrating the start of Spring!

Imagine my surprise when I found out that when you grow up, it is really about getting wasted before 10 a.m….ha.

I don’t usually partake in that other than a drink or two , but I do bring a few fun St. Patty’s foods for the revelers.  To get into the spirit I made some Pinterest-Inspired-Oreo-Brownie- bars. They are everything you can imagine. Tasty. Sweet. Sinful. And definitely a once-per-year kind of thing.

I should call them Green Fatty Bars. Because these babies are going straight to your hips!

Just Kidding.

Let’s call them Green Party Bars.

There.

Better.

Green Oreo Bars

I guess I have been craving baked goods lately because I also made this delicious Meyer Lemon Pound Cake a few days ago for absolutely no special occasion. I just saw these gorgeous Meyer  lemons and wanted to so something with them!lemon pound cake

meyer lemon

I love their beautiful orange  hue.

 

Anyway, as  you can see, I do not have an original recipe for you, but just a few photos of my baking endeavors and Springtime on the urban farm. (The Oreo-Brownie-Bar recipe is linked above) . The lemon cake? I am not even going to try to recall all that went into that! It was a multi-step process that involved homemade Meyer lemon curd and a pound cake base.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have been blogging less. I value time spent with my husband, working in the garden, catching up with friends and family and just unplugging , but I hope I can continue to share more here at least weekly! I miss my blog family.

Plus I have quite  a few gardening/chicken posts in the works!

amaeracauna

In love and health,

Lydia